The minor league season starts today! Rosters are finalized, pitching match ups are announced, fields are ready, and baseball is back. All four full season teams open their season today, and all four have some some interesting early stories we will be watching.

AAA – Iowa Cubs.
Iowa opens at home against Round Rock. The Cubs have yet to name a starter for the game, but presumably, someone will start.

Iowa features four prospects who could play a big part in the Cubs’ future major league success. Brett Jackson will be in the outfield, Anthony Rizzo will man first, Josh Vitters will (probably) be playing at third, and Welington Castillo will be behind the plate. The Cubs’ AAA team also features a very deep pitching staff. Any one of the starting five could be pitching for Chicago by the end of the year.

AA – Tennesse Smokies.
The Smokies start their season on the road in Chattanooga, just down the road. Nick Struck takes the mound for Tennessee.

Tennessee also features a deep pitching staff, but it is the middle infield that could provide some assistance to Chicago first. Elliot Soto is an underrated shortstop who could back up Castro as soon as next season, and Logan Watkins is in line to dethrone Darwin Barney at second base.

High A – Daytona Cubs.
Matt Loosen will be on the mound as the Cubs defend their Florida State League title on the road in Brevard County.

With Matt Szczur and Ronald Torreyes, Daytona has plenty of talent up the middle in support of another deep pitching staff. This season we will also be watching closely the play of Arismendy Alcantara and Elieser Bonne. Alcantara is a toolsy but raw shortstop who showed flashes of promise with Peoria last season. Bonne is a relative unknown, but an intriguing one.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs.
The Opening Day starter for one of the most talented pitching staffs in the farm system will be 2011 draftee Michael Jenson. He’ll take the mound in Beloit.

The Chiefs have a number of pitchers that are well worth keep a close eye on (including Jenson). Reggie Golden and Zeke DeVoss highlight the position players. If things go well, they could both be a big part of the Cubs’ major league plans for a long time.

Be sure to check out the schedules for all of the Cubs full season teams. Many of the games for Iowa and Tennessee can be seen on the TV package, and when the short-season league starts you will get to enjoy a number of Boise games as well.

No one person can attend all of these games, but we can all enjoy your experience. If you do make it to a minor league park, be sure to tell us about it in the comments, on the Message Board, or via twitter (@bleachernation and @ltblaize). If you have any pictures of the game you want to show off, be sure to load them up on the Message Boards. In a lot of ways I am relying on you to be our scouts. There is no substitute for seeing a player first hand, so any and all first hand reports on our favorite (or least favorite) prospects will be welcome.

The long winter is finally over, and baseball is just hours away. It’s about time.

  • Luke

    I said rosters are finalized, but that’s not quite accurate.  Iowa is still somewhat up in the air.  There are a couple of open slots on the roster, and currently they have no listed backup catcher or shortstop.  We should be getting the opening day roster any time now.

    • Brett

      Not your fault – there are some shenanigans going on, and the Cubs are waiting until the last second to sort this out.

    • ElsieBonne

      Theo is a Slug

  • HectorGonzalez

    Theo needs to sign more Cubans….lol

    • Eric

      I can think of at least one more I’d want him to sign.

  • MaxM1908

    It would be a pleasant surprise if these roster shenanigans were all about opening up a spot for a soon-to-be-Free agent named Jorge Soler.

  • Kyle

    I haven’t checked the weather, but we can probably just mark Daytona down for three weeks of rainouts.

    • Luke

      Sounds about right.  Grounds crews in the FSL might be the hardest working people in baseball.

  • djriz

    Cubs WIN all 5 openers….what could be better than that?

    Luke…any word on Junior Lake?

    • Luke

      Still hearing that he’s being kept in Arizona with a minor injury.  I’m not sure how minor is minor, but there’s been no talk of surgery or anything of that nature.

      I still expect him to report to Tennessee, but maybe not for a few weeks.

      • Norm

        Baseball America wrote that Lake could be out up to a month and will report back to AA when healthy…

        • djriz

          Thanks, Guys.

        • ElsieBonne

          p Jungmann

          doubled to right center, RBI
          singled to left field

          Bonne 0-4

  • mark

    I’m glad Spring ABs are meaningless, because Valbuena’s line in 48 of ’em was
    .163 .196 .349, with 6 SOs and 2 BBs. He apparently has some pop when he gets the bat on the ball. Someone was claiming he’s a Sabremetic “darling” but it’s hard to see from his career MLB stats. I can’t wait to see the trade coming out of all this, because the way I figure it the only safe people right now–realistically speaking–are Castro and Soto.

    • Andrew

      Looking at his aaa stats from last year he looks like an on base machine with an obp like 70 points higher than his average. Obviously that’s aaa but he has shown good plate discipline if that obp is no fluke. His aaa slash line is quite impressive but it is just aaa.

      • DocPWimsey

        Actually, an isoD of 0.07 is actually close to league average. It just looks good because you are used to the Cubs! Still, think of all of those rallies that didn’t get snuffed because a slow guy drew a walk and then couldn’t move once he got to 2nd…..

        That being written, never let the perfect be the enemy of the good: an isoD of 0.07 is an improvement for our team.

        • Andrew

          I imagine that an isod of .07 is above average for a second baseman or shortstop though right?

        • Andrew

          I imagine that an isod of .07 is above average for a second baseman or shortstop though right? That combined with his also potentially high batting average is what is more compelling to me.

          • Kyle Mayhugh

            I think you are underestimating how much going from being a veteran AAA player to the majors is going to take off of those numbers.

            • Andrew

              Ya he probably won’t be near those numbers, but as an essentially free player I think it’s worth the risk to check out if some switch got turned on in his last aaa stint.

          • DocPWimsey

            The median and mean last year were 0.06, so it is right now. A few years ago, it would have been below average, but walk rates have dropped a little bit in the last few years as many teams have gone for “contact” hitters to reduce strikeouts.

            As for how far it will fall, I’ve never seen that analyzed with lots of data. The handful of players at whom I have looked show minor league walk rates in line with major league rates: but that was far from an exhaustive survey.

  • mark

    True. Problem is, he’s 26 and in portions of 4 MLB seasons his OBP has sunk like a stone, from a none too great start:

    AB 49 368 275 43
    OBP .315. .298 .273 .227

    I assume they’re looking for one viable backup at SS/2B and don’t think they’ve found one yet. It’s not realistic to think this guy will develop into a starter at this stage.

    • Andrew

      He’s clearly not going to be the starter but as a flyer on a guy that costs nothing but a roster spot, he is definitely interesting. Not necessarily good but compelling to see how he does none the less.

  • CubbieFaithful

    I’m really excited to get out to O’Brien Field here in Peoria to see some up and comers in this farm system. Plus it’s really just a great ballpark to watch baseball in.

  • Kyl-el

    Early returns on the night are nice.

    Everyone I like at Iowa has at least a hit or two, and Vitters has a walk to go with his single.

    Wells was pretty mediocre, at best. 2 HR, 3 BB and only 2 K is not what he wanted out of the night.

    Struck is having himself an outing at Tennessee. 5 IP, 0 BB, 0 HR, 8 K, two hits and no runs, with just 70 pitches.

    • MaxM1908

      Corpas and Maine had good relief outings to preserve Wells’ win. Keep it up, boys. We may be tapping that Relief depth sooner than expected…

      Also Kyle, it sounded on the radio like Campana had some dandy base-running in the bottom of the fourth to score the go-ahead run.

      • hansman1982

        Campana just used his speed. He was at third by the time the third baseman fielded the ball.

    • hansman1982

      Wells did not appear to want to be there. Very condescending in the pre-game warmups and just very obtuse. Cannot say enough good things about Brett Jackson, Wellington Castillo and Jeff Belliveau. Stand up guys, especially the first two who took a lot of time, post game, to chat and sign autographs.

      • MaxM1908

        So what happened on that Campana score from 2nd, was it a deep infield grounder and Campana just blew by third (and the third baseman threw to first)? I couldn’t tell from the announcers, but it sounded like they were impressed with what they saw from Campana.

        Also, Hansman, whereabouts do you live in Des Moines? I used to live in Sherman Hill when I worked at the Iowa AG’s office. I loved getting to Principal Park for the games.

        • hansman1982

          It was a fairly routine grounder to third but Camps was moving more or less on contact. The third baseman fielded it about at the infield grass and threw to first. By the time he released it Campana was a stride past third. Seriously, if the dude could get on base at a .350 clip he would rival Henderson.

          Edit: Most players would have still been on 2nd. Campana’s speed is highly underrated. He NEEDS to be on the MLB roster.